I’ve come to accept that my words won’t do justice to the truth of the experience. They will, at best, only offer a glimpse of the extraordinary. There are moments that are like lifting curtains to illuminate a room you hadn’t realised you’d always been standing in. The first time the scalpel parts the skin you realise that nothing could ever replace the real thing: no photographs, no videos, no descriptions. Under the bright lights of the operating theatre, blood assumes another hue, and you know you’ve never seen true red before. This is a new canvas, unfamiliar territory, an unexplored country. Many years ago, we used to drill holes in skulls to let evil spirits out, to let their malignancy spill out into the world. Nowadays trepanation serves a similiar purpose; the black blood of a subdural haematoma connects us the past. Then there’s the tumorous growths that bloom inside the cranium; on the images we project onto our screens they remind me of supernovas in the skull, an explosion slowed in time, one moment of a catastrophe recorded for posterity. In the universe, an exploding star provides new material for another world to grow; nothing is ever lost. What purpose does this serve? Only cells multiplying, pushing forward, invading, until nothing remains, the mind forever lost. So we excise it, knowing fully well that all this does is drag out a battle that is already lost. But for all the horrors that can take residency inside the human skull, there’s beauty to be found. In the end, so much of the brain has been removed that one can glimpse the inside of the base of the skull: an opalescent surface, gleaming like a white pearl, the inside of an oyster shell.